What is Net Neutrality?
In basic layman’s terms, Net Neutrality expounds the principle that everyone, regardless of, position, power or wealth, should be treated equally through the internet. One of the main catalysts of the Net Neutrality movement has been the US Internet Service Providers’ proposal to provide faster internet connections for those willing to pay a premium, thereby creating fast lanes for the wealthy, while mere mortals languish in the slow lanes.
To use a motoring metaphor – Imagine two roads both leading from A to B. The first is a narrow, one lane road with a speed limit of 30mph costing $30.00 to travel on. The second, is a magnificent 6 lane highway with a maximum speed of 110mph but this road costs $300.00 to travel on. That’s basically the sort of system ISPs have been hinting at introducing.
Net Neutrality Brings Stricter Regulation
The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) in the US has recently voted in favor of maintaining Net Neutrality. The FCC’s decision involved reclassifying broadband internet as a “Title ll” public utility which subsequently opens it up to much stricter regulation. The main goal of which is to ensure that access providers can’t privilege or favor certain websites and services over others, through paid or other arrangements.
These new regulations include the following main rules:
- Broadband providers cannot block or speed up connections for a fee
- Internet providers cannot strike deals with content firms, known as paid prioritisation, for smoother delivery of traffic to consumers
- Interconnection deals, where content companies pay broadband providers to connect to their networks, will also be regulated
- Firms which feel that unjust fees have been levied can complain to the FCC. Each one will be dealt with on a case by case basis
- All of the rules will also apply to mobile providers as well as fixed line providers
- The FCC won’t apply some sections of the new rules, including price controls
Net Neutrality – For & Against
Advocates for Net Neutrality are obviously popping corks following the FCC’s decision. To no-one’s surprise, Microsoft has issued the following statement:
We applaud the FCC’s decision to preserve the fundamentally open nature of the Internet and look forward to reading the Order and rules.
While Steve Wozniak, Apple co-founder, told Bloomberg:
Today’s decision goes a lot further than Net neutrality. Title II regulation means oversight of bad behavior, not meddling or controlling, but looking for bad behavior. This is a victory for the consumers, the average Joes, an indication that the people can sometimes win.
Obviously, Internet Service Providers are not at all happy with this decision, and I seriously doubt we’ve heard the end of it just yet. The US Telecommunications Industry Association has already announced that broadband providers would take “immediate” legal action over the rule changes.
Far be it for me to opine on US policies but this decision can only be viewed as a huge victory for the little people. The only thing that gives me slight pause is the prospect of government gaining greater controls over the internet, we are all aware of government’s propensity for awful decision making. However, if that’s what it takes to reign in the Internet Service Providers, so be it.
I wish the Australian government would do something similar with our banking system… but that, as they say, is another story.